Bernardo Sassetti


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Bernardo Sassetti is virtually unknown to all but the most fanatical of American jazz fans, though they have almost undoubtedly heard him play -- whether with Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, Paquito D'Rivera, Eddie Henderson, Andy Sheppard, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Wheeler, or Guy Barker. Or perhaps his stunning, hushed lyrical style was heard on the soundtrack to The Talented Mr. Ripley, where he accompanied Matt Damon, Jude Law, and even John Martyn. It hardly matters; on his sixth LP as a leader and his first in seven years, Sassetti establishes himself as perhaps the pianist to watch on the ever-growing Portuguese/Brazilian jazz scene. Sassetti's earlier, more intensely rhythmic recordings investigated the roots of Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and African folk musics. This set delves deeply into his roots as a trained classical musician and as a grand creator of atmospheric tension and melodic invention as a composer. In the same sense that Chopin's "Nocturnes" created intimate, mysterious soundscapes of wonder and shadow, so, too, do Sassetti's, with one great exception: Rather than being exercises for the piano, Sassetti's compositions are decidedly arranged and executed for trio as songs that evoke the spirit of night itself. His rhythm section -- bassist Carlos Barretto and drummer Alexandre Frazão -- is able to create the necessary moving, floating backdrop for these pieces to take off from. Recorded spectacularly in the home and on the piano of the great classical pianist Maria João Pires on an exceptional piano, the sonic tapestries in Sassetti's compositions reveal the lyrical and emotional sensitivity of Bill Evans, the shimmering execution of John Lewis, and the rhythmic sensibilities of Horace Parlan (one of Sassetti's teachers). Of the ten pieces here, seven were composed or co-written by Sassetti. Two are by famed Catalan composer Federico Mompou and one is perhaps a definitive read of Johnny Mandel and Paul Webster's "Time for Love," which opens the album. Sassetti's harmonic inventions in the middle register and soft yet sure voicings on the lower create notes where tonalities blur and become indistinct and something wholly other; they are mysterious, yet far from obtuse or academic; these tunes and the improvisations that reside inside their spare song lines are deeply expressive and yet completely devoid of false drama or overwrought sentimentality. Standouts include "Andante," "Sonho Dos Outros," "Quando Volta o Encato," and "Monkais." For those who have yet to discover Sassetti, this is a unique opportunity; for those who do know his work, this will turn you on your head, as you've never heard him like this before: elegant, enigmatic, and positively genteel. A fine return for Sassetti; one can only hope this record spreads his reputation as one of the young lions who has fully arrived.

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